The Coat of Many Colors
by Charlotte Collins Bond


This is a story about the brother of two of my great-great grandmothers. It was told to me by my maternal grandmother, Linnie Teate. It had been told to her by her grandmother, Martha Porterfield Strickland, wife of William Strickland. As fate would have it, Martha had a sister named Malinda who married Thomas Collins. She became my paternal great-great grandmother when her great-grandson, George Collins married Ruth Teate, great-granddaughter of Martha. So, as you can see, George & Ruth were distant cousins, having descended from two sisters.

Martha and Malinda had three more sisters; Elizabeth, Harriett and Frances. They also had six brothers; Willis, Allen, John, James W., Nathan and Horatio. I’m not sure about all the brothers, but I know that Allen, James W. and Nathan and Horatio enlisted to fight in the Confederate Army. So did Martha’s husband, William Strickland as well as Frances’s husband, Jeremiah Hall.

The parents of these eleven children were James Porterfield and Tabitha Bond. They married in 1808 in MadisonCounty. James was born in Fayettville, NC in 1787. Two years into the war James died. He was 76 years old. The stress of his sons & sons-in-law being so far away fighting in a war they didn’t understand, took it’s toll on him, but learning of the death of his son‘s, Allen and Horatio, was the final blow and he died in 1863. James W. and Nathan returned home and lived out their lives in Madison County.

This story is about Horatio. He married Patience Hall, the sister of his brother-in-law, Jeremiah Hall.

Martha Porterfield Strickland was a "Granny Woman". This was a common name for a midwife in those days, but Martha was much more than just a midwife. Some say her skills had been handed down through the years via the local Indians. At any rate, she was skilled in treating illnesses with herbs, bark off certain trees, and seed from what appeared like common weeds. She carried her potions & necessary equipment in a black leather bag and traveled by horse. You could say she was a country doctor.

The Civil War had deleted most of the men folk in the Harrison Community of Madison County leaving very little activity. The Porterfield sisters would gather frequently at their parents' home to visit and check on things and just to help out. One day they decided to make a coat for their younger brother, Horatio, who was away in the War. Cloth was as scarce as anything else in those dark days, so they decided to go home and bring back their old dresses and make a coat like a patch-work quilt. It would be something more than just to keep his body warm, it would warm his spirits as he looked at the different patches and remembered the sister that wore that certain dress. It would be a part of home that warmed his body, heart and soul.  It would be his COAT OF MANY COLORS. They mailed it off to him.

One day, in the spring of 1863, Martha had been out on horseback to deliver a baby. She was entering a clearing about a mile from her parents' house when out of nowhere a horseman rode past her like the wind. He didn’t even look at her. It spooked her horse and it nearly threw her to the ground. She couldn’t bring the horse under control and now it was racing as if it were scared to death. Martha got only a glimpse of the rider, but she recognized Horatio’s coat.

As she approached her mother’s home, the horse jumped the split rail fence and ran to the horse lot. Martha ran into the house excitedly and began telling her parents and her sisters that Horatio was on his way home, when she realized that they had all been crying.  Her mother showed her the telegram she had just received from the War Department.  HORATIO WAS DEAD.  How could that be? She had just seen him! Or had she? Had she seen an apparition; the ghost of her dead brother? Or was it, in fact, another person wearing Horatio’s coat? That question was never answered. Sometimes there just are no answers.


James Porterfield’s father, John, was one of five children of one of the most prominent families in Cumberland County, NC. Of the five children, one died in infancy, Eleanor married Col. Thomas Owen, and Dennis, James and John all fought in the American Revolution. Dennis gave his life in the battle of Eutaw Springs, September 8, 1781. He had attained the rank of Major and died a hero’s death as he deliberately drew enemy fire to distract them away from some of his trapped comrade’s .

James and John became very successful merchants there in Fayetteville and were active in many civic and political affairs. Their father, James Porterfield, was born in Ireland 1718. He grew up in Pa. and then moved to Cumberland County, NC where he died in 1777. He and his family were influential Whigs. His home was the headquarters for the Whigs of Cross Creek. His wife was an expert cartridge maker, frequently spending nights preparing bullets for the Americans, long after James died.

Family Information

According to Emma Brannon and Annie Lou Davis, authors of These Passed Our Way, the Porterfields in my lineage are as follows:

1- Alexander Porterfield, 1591-1675, married Agnes Blair.

2- Alexander Porterfield, 1620-1694, was born in Scotland. He married Marion Hutchinson. He was buried in the Porterfield tomb in Kilmacolm Kirkyard, Scotland.

3- William Porterfield was born 1645, in Ireland where his parents, staunch Protestants,had migrated to Donegal County, with the exodus of Scotch-English in the late 17th century.

4- John Porterfield, 1675-1739, was born in Donegal County, Ireland, and with the exodus of the Scotch, Irish, and English, came to Chester County, Pa. In the early 1700’s. John had seven sons and a daughter.

5- James Porterfield, 1718-1777. He was born in Ireland, lived in PA several years and then moved to Cumberland County, NC where he died 1777.

6- John Porterfield was born ca. 1740-45.

Profile on Allen Porterfield

Allen Porterfield was the second son of James and Tabitha Bond Porterfield. He was born April 25, 1811. He married Elizabeth Tait daughter of Robert and Mary Tait, March 14, 1832.

Allen died of sunstroke caused by riding atop an over crowded train of home-bound Confederate soldiers. He is buried in the Confederate Cemetery in Griffin, Ga. Census records list him as a cobbler. The following is a copy of a government document sent to his family:

Allen Porterfield, private of company B, 3rd. Georgia Regiment, entered the service in response to the Governor’s call for the Reserve Militia. Said Porterfield is 5 ft. 11 inches high, blue eyes, light hair and ruddy complexion, about 57 years 11 months and 20 days.

The following is a copy of the ALLEN PORTERFIELD Bible:


Allen Porterfield was born April 25, 1811
Elizabeth Porterfield was born Sept. 29, 1810
Martha Tabitha was born Jan. 24, 1834
Elmira Mandy [Amanda] was born Dec. 17, 1835
Robert L. Tait was born Sept. 17, 1837
Susan Gaits was born May 19, 1839
Frances Elizabeth was born Jan. 29, 1841
James Allen was born Jan. 23, 1843
Edward was born March 10, 1848
Emaline was born ----- ------ 1850

For further information on this Porterfield family,
please contact Charlotte Collins Bond

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